It was a rainy day on a holiday in England in 1978 when this all started. Wendy Brinsmead and I were visiting from Canada. Wendy knew that, long ago and far away, her relatives had come from Devon. Finding it too wet to tour around, we decided to visit the Devon County Records Office. It seemed like an innocent enough way to pass away the day. The ever helpful staff found us the parish records for the one village we knew of, Weare Giffard, in North Devon. In those days they would let you look over the original parish registers, notwithstanding their fragility. Perhaps it was the shear antiquity of it that got this all started. We copied down all the Brinsmead entries for Weare Giffard, and then found a reference to St. Giles in the Wood, and copied all of those too. A little more digging led us to Bishop's Hull in nearby Somerset and yet more old records. When the sun came back out we visited the three villages and found gravestones in two of them.
Over the next few years these random records came out like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, incomplete and hard to fit together. Two sons were born - Peter Keir Brinsmead Sims and David Nicholas Brinsmead Sims. One year, hard pressed for ideas for a birthday present, they opted for an early version of Family Tree Maker. The purple bag in the basement full of the old notes was resurrected, dutifully entered and produced what began to look like a tree. I was able to combine this with work Wendy had done preparing a Canadian tree for a family reunion. Straining memories and pestering relatives had produced a line back to Hugh Brinsmead, the first Brinsmead to emigrate to Canada. Linking him to the then fragmentary English tree, however, proved difficult.
All this took place just as the internet began to blossom. Some e-mails and a few entries on the rudimentary web sites that had begun to spring up put me in touch with others fascinated by the Brinsmead family story; in particular, Doug Beveridge and Chris Willis in England, Greg Brinsmead and Max Brinsmead in Australia, and George Brinsmead and Brian Huseland in the USA. Group work with these contacts, a couple of trips to England and lots more digging led to a more complete tree and, after lots of searching, the identification of Hugh Brinsmead and his ties to the English family.
In the early 1990's I decided that the best way to share my research was to put it on the internet, first as a backwater on my work site and then as a site in its own right - www.brinsmead.net. For several years it grew exponentially. However, by about 2004 the sheer volume of material, pressures from work and the rapidly changing web technology slowed things down. I focussed more attention on the history of the Brinsmead's in Canada, and on my other family lines.
The Sims family - with the related Tizzards, Cullens an Killicks, has its own interesting story and www.brinsmead.net has been pressed into service to cover Peter and David's paternal line.
In 2008, with updated software and a little more free time, I began updating the web pages and trying to add more content from my continuing research and the information supplied from the many interested correspondents from around the world. Since then, it has been a challange to keep up with the growing amount of material available on-line.
What is the fascination, one might ask? For me, history has always seemed important. Maybe as an immigrant to Canada from England, I miss the ever present reminders of the past. What continually interests me is why people move as they do; from a sense of adventure, to escape poverty, or just as a result of serendipity. The Brinsmead history illustrates all of that and much more. I have a particular interest in Victoriana, and the life of John Brinsmead, "the piano man" spans Victoria's entire reign and in many ways captures its spirit, moving from being a poor (but, I suspect, never humble) country lad to a successful entrepreneur with interests throughout what was then "the Empire".
Whatever the reasons, as a hobby it has led me to many interesting places, in Canada, England and Australia, and put me in touch with many interesting and almost invariably helpful people. This includes many with Brinsmead connections, but also those unsung heroes who work or volunteer in the libraries, record offices and family history centres that, for genealogists, are the salt mines within which we toil.
Professionally, I am a lawyer practicing in Canada in the field of labour relations, almost entirely as an arbitrator, mediator and labour board chair. Genealogy provides a refreshing break from what can be a hectic worklife. I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, which makes progress a little difficult at times since I cannot just nip down to the Devon Records Office or the National Achieves to check out a hunch. Wendy Brinsmead and I are no longer married, but she has always been and continues to be a strong supporter of this research which gives our two sons, David and Peter, a record of their roots back to their ninth great grandparents, Thomas and Agnys Brinsmead of St. Giles in the Wood.
It is always a pleasure to hear from relatives and others interested in any aspect of this research. For all those who have sent pictures, provided information or just dropped by for a visit, a big thank you. All this is just a hobby with no commercial aspect and it continues to be an interesting and rewarding,even after 35 years. The internet has vastly improved access to data although, as I stare into screens, I miss the touch and smell of the old parish registers.
Thank you for visiting the site. If you have a moment, drop us a line.